In the heart of the Indian Ocean lies a gorgeous tropical island with a rich history, a vibrant tapestry of cultures, and some truly breathtaking natural scenery. Where is this paradise place, this dream travel destination? And what makes it so special?
Why This Island is a Top Place to Visit in 2024
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to spend more than 4 months living on this amazing island. From its mist-shrouded mountains to its pristine, sun-drenched beaches, I explored virtually every corner and fell totally in love with it.
Okay, enough smoke and mirrors. If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about Sri Lanka! According to CN Traveler, Sri Lanka is tipped as one of the best places to go in 2024. I wholeheartedly agree with this, and here’s why.
1. Breathtaking Natural Beauty
For a relatively small country (it’s only 65,600 square km in size), Sri Lanka has a huge amount of natural beauty.
The island has more than its fair share of breathtaking beaches, especially along the southern and eastern coasts. I spent a month living in a tiny village near Mirissa and explored most of the beaches in that area.
One of my personal favorites is a tiny secluded cove called Abimanagama Beach. You can only reach it on foot which means it’s quiet and unspoiled. It’s stunning, with its golden sands, wrap-around cliffs, jungle, and crystal-clear waters full of turtles and fish. Come here for sunset!
Inland, the island has a wealth of different scenery. The rugged mountains of the central highlands, with their lush tea plantations and misty hills, offer a stark contrast to the wetlands and inland waterways you’ll find in the northeastern part of Sri Lanka.
2. Rich Culture
Sri Lanka’s cultural tapestry is as diverse as its landscapes. The island’s history spans over two millennia, evidenced by its numerous ancient cities and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Sigiriya is one of the most famous – and impressive – ancient sights in South Asia. This ancient fortress is perched at the top of a towering rocky outcrop and once served as a palace for Sri Lankan royalty. It’s well worth the hike to the top, this whole place blew my mind.
The highland city of Kandy, home to the sacred Temple of the Tooth, is often considered to be the cultural heart of Sri Lanka. But the cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are also full of temples and ruins that offer rich glimpses into the island’s ancient Buddhist civilizations.
Galle Fort, a walled city and sea fort on the southwest coast is another iconic destination not to be missed, with its distinctive colonial architecture developed under Portuguese, Dutch, and British rule.
3. Wildlife and Ecotourism
Sri Lanka is a hotspot for biodiversity, making it an ideal destination for ecotourism and spotting wildlife in their natural environment. The island has no fewer than 26 national parks home to a diverse range of species.
Yala National Park, in particular, has one of the highest densities of leopards anywhere in the world. Other animals you can spot here include elephants, buffalo, sloth bears, crocodiles, monkeys, and a huge range of birdlife.
For those interested in marine life, the waters off Sri Lanka are just as impressive. Mirissa and Trincomalee are popular spots for whale watching, with frequent sightings of blue whales, dolphins, and various other sea mammals.
Or simply grab a snorkel and see what you can spot closer to the shore. I lost track of the number of turtles I saw while snorkeling in Sri Lanka, not to mention the other species such as pufferfish, lionfish, octopi, and even reef sharks.
4. Delicious Food
Sri Lankan cuisine is delicious. There are many different typical dishes, but most feature aromatic spices and plenty of fresh local ingredients such as coconut, pumpkin, greens, and seafood.
If you’re a vegetarian, the good news is that some of the tastiest Sri Lankan dishes are meat-free. Many are also vegan.
Some of my favorites include dahl, coconut sambal, pumpkin curry, cashew curry, and spicy braised beetroot. Try ordering the local specialty food wherever you choose to visit – it’ll probably just be called “Rice and Curry” on the menu.
Another thing I’d recommend doing in Sri Lanka is taking a local cooking class. You’ll learn how to make a range of classic dishes that you can replicate at home, and will also get to feast on your creations afterward. It’s a great experience.
5. Tons of Outdoor Activities and Adventures
Sri Lanka is an adventurer’s paradise, with a huge number of outdoor activities on offer.
It’s one of the best surfing destinations in Asia (I learned to surf here!), and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean mean there’s no need for wetsuits. You can surf in swimwear and a T-shirt, it’s great!
If you’re a hiker, there are many places with excellent trails. Two of my favorite places for hiking in Sri Lanka are Ella (the Ella Rock hike is fantastic!) and the Knuckles Forest Reserve in the mountains near Kandy.
6. It’s Budget Friendly
Sri Lanka is one of the most budget-friendly destinations I’ve visited in recent years. There’s no shortage of cheap (but still good quality) guesthouses and other accommodations.
If you’re a budget traveler, you can cross the country on public buses or trains for a few dollars. And if you eat in local places, you don’t need to spend much money on food either.
If you’re a surfer, you’ll find board rental and lessons in Sri Lanka cost a fraction of what they do in most other parts of the world.
Of course, if you have a large budget, you can spend a lot more money in Sri Lanka too, and there are many luxurious resorts and fancy hotels, especially along the south coast. However, whatever your budget, it’s easy to have a comfortable and exciting trip without bankrupting yourself.
7. Welcoming Local People
The warmth and hospitality of the Sri Lankan people is legendary.
I was blown away by how many people went out of their way to make me feel welcome, whether it was sharing their food outside a temple or on a train, or simply stopping me in the street to say “Hello, welcome to Sri Lanka”.
In my experience, many people in Sri Lanka are keen to share their culture and traditions with visitors. Not to make money out of you, but just to make you feel welcome. It’s a fantastic place.
There are lots of reasons why Sri Lanka is a top place to visit in 2024. Here, I’ve described just 7 of my favorite things about the country, but there are many other great things about it too, and an almost endless list of reasons why I can’t wait to return.
I’ve never met a single other person who’s visited Sri Lanka and not raved about how amazing it was. If you’ve never been before, maybe 2024 is the year you should. I hope to book my own flight back very soon!